Handwriting practice is a boring task for most kids. For the children who struggle with the underlying components of handwriting, practice is more than boring. It’s numbing. You can see it in the eyes of many kids who really hate handwriting practice. They glaze over. The child slouches down in their chair, and they go through the motions of writing practice. And then what has been practiced is not carried over. We’ve covered so many handwriting problem areas on The OT Toolbox. You can find many resources under the handwriting tab at the top of the site.
Carryover of handwriting skills practiced with the school based occupational therapist or in one-on-one time is most often, not carried over into classroom written work on in free writing tasks. A common concern among members in the Sweet Ideas for Handwriting Help facebook group is lack of carryover from skills learned in individualized interventions.
So, how can carryover of the underlying skills be turned into consistent handwriting?
Related read: 30 Easy Quick Fixes for Better Handwriting series
These handwriting activities are powerful ways to dazzle your students to using handwriting practices consistently. They may not work for every child, but the trick is to find what works for individual kids and incorporate those strategies.
We all have things we know we should do but just don’t. Maybe it’s staying on a track to healthy eating. Maybe it’s exercising regularly. Maybe it’s maintaining proper posture. Maybe it’s keeping the kitchen counter clear from the pile of bills and junk mail. Maybe it’s drinking enough water. All of us have at least one area of our lives where we know what we should do and how we should do it, but we just DON’T do it!
So what is the secret to maintaining success and using the handwriting strategies that we know work?
1. Work on “Small Wins”: When kids sit down to a writing assignment, they can get overwhelmed by the task ahead of them. Then, they know the individual challenges that they are faced with: forming letters correctly, writing on lines, copying sentences without skipping letters, making a “b” and not a “d”, forming letters the correct size, not mixing upper and lower case letters, holding the pencil the right way, not writing too dark or too light, erasing all of the mistakes…it’s a minefield of mistakes waiting to happen!
Work on small wins that can move a child toward a bigger goal. Ask the child to just focus on getting words on the paper. Another assignment can be only about writing on the lines. Another task can be just about making the letters the right size. Ask them to focus on just one thing. Then, when they are done writing, ask them what strategies they used to get that particular part of handwriting legibility done.
Make small stars on handwriting that is legible, written on the lines, uses appropriate spacing, or meets other goals. Drawing attention to those small wins (even if there are other areas on the page where the handwriting lacked) can be a positive tool for kids who are working on handwriting.
2. Teach a Teacher: When we teach, we learn. There is science backing the fact that when we teach something to someone else, it sticks better. So use this strategy to get kids to notice the individual pieces of handwriting and teach them to another student (or the teacher!) Break the class down into groups of two. One student can write and the other is the teacher. They can “teach” how to write on the lines, how to erase mistakes completely, and how to make a straight left margin. Sometimes that simple assessment helps to make strategies stick better. Then, switch roles and the other students can become the handwriting teacher.
3. Make Good Handwriting Part of a Routine: How do we remember to drink 8 glasses of water a day? For some of us, that is a real challenge. For others, they’ve got this covered. They have a routine of water guzzling ingrained in their day so much so that they can easily drink their required glasses of water. Have a cup of water on your desk at all times; make a schedule; make it part of your day!
So, how do kids make legible and proper handwriting just part of the process of writing? Use a checklist to self-monitor handwriting. Kids can then look over their handwriting to make sure they’ve used proper formation, line awareness, spaces between words, and size of letters just right! Here is a printable handwriting self-checklist that you can print and use in the classroom.
Some kids might have different items they need to monitor for legible written work. Maybe they need to make sure the tail letters drop down below the baseline. Write the particular handwriting concepts that each child needs to monitor on an index card and post it at their writing station. Laminate the index card and students can check off each item with a dry erase marker during writing tasks.
These are just three ways to ensure carryover of handwriting concepts into all writing tasks. What are your best tips for ensuring kids carryover concepts from therapy sessions into the classroom or homework?
Looking for help with specific handwriting concerns? Click on the images below to find tons of activities and strategies to help: